December 18, 2017

The Liturgical Gangstas Talk about Leisure & Recreation

Presented by Chaplain Mike

UPDATE: This just in. Gangsta Joe Boysel has joined the conversation. He said something about being out on a “job.” Not sure what that means, but he looked much more relaxed than the last time I saw him. Take a few minutes, even if you’ve already read the original post, and hear what Pastor Joe has to say.

As we post some comments from our Gangstas this month, we welcome a new contributor to the smoke-filled room. He is Monsignor Paul Koetter, a priest here in one of Indianapolis’ fine Catholic churches. The church is in a parish where I have many patients, and I can witness to the vibrancy of their community and the wonderful pastoral care that parish members receive. I recently attended a funeral service at his church, and was so impressed by his ability to teach and explain the various parts of the mass that I asked him to join our gang for these discussions. I’m grateful he agreed to at least give it a try—he is a busy man after all. Thanks, Father Paul!

TODAY’S QUESTION: The Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of summer and the season of leisure and recreation for most Americans. What do you do for leisure and recreation? How do the concepts of “enjoyment,” “pleasure,” “leisure,” and “fun” fit in your theological thinking? How does your church tradition teach you to think about and approach this aspect of life?

Rev. Joe Boysel, Anglican

I think the relationship between work and rest is a much overlooked theological topic for twenty-first century Christians living in the Western world. Indeed, how does the relationship between work and play function in a person’s life?  How does the interplay between activity and rest, occupation and Sabbath bring balance (i.e. shalom) to one’s life?

The Fourth Commandment stipulates that God’s people are to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” So rest is a command. But so, too, is work. The “ten words” that God gave to Moses continue: “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.” Work and rest. Starting and stopping. Both are important.

Furthermore, the Bible prescribes more than just a weekly schedule, doesn’t it? Work and play, doing and not-doing, are addressed on annual cycles and even half century cycles, too. It seems that humans were designed to do (a lot!) and to be replenished by intentional not-doing. I suppose it is much like working out at the gym. When a person lifts weights, the work actually rips the muscles, tearing its fibers apart. But when the muscles are given time to heal, the restoration process makes them much stronger than they were before the workout began. It seems that things aren’t much different for the human spirit. All work and no play rips a person’s life apart by giving no respite for healing. On the other hand, all play and no work makes one flabby and incapable of doing important tasks.

In my work as a clergyman, I find that it’s easy to confuse my work as a priest with my relationship with the Lord. “Of course, I’m a Christian; I’m a priest for crying out loud!” But being a priest is not the same thing as being a Christian. In fact, there are times when being a priest militates against my faith. (It’s not as easy as it looks to shepherd people!) So, I find that when I work too much and rest too little that I begin to lose sight of both my vocation and my relationship with the Lord. Oh, I can still run a church. But instead of a shepherd leading people towards the Eternal, I instead become what Eugene Peterson calls, “a branch manager of a warehouse outlet that markets God to religious consumers.”

So rest is important. No, it’s more than that: Sabbath stands as a MORAL issue. Following the Decalogue, it would be easy to get the impression that Sabbath keeping is the moral equivalent to fidelity in marriage or transparency in accounting. Let me put it another way. I think that failing to keep a Sabbath is sinful in the same way as a banker who embezzles money or a husband who cheats on his wife. And, although perhaps in a lesser way, so is forgoing annual extended respites. Vacations are not a luxury, they are a spiritual necessity.

Holidays don’t need to be lavish, though. We’re a clergy family, which means we’re poor by definition! Fortunately, though, we know people who are less poor than we are. One of the families we know is the Wadley family. The Wadleys own a home in Bethany Beach, DE. They inherited the home and have kept it so that they might make it available to clergy families for a place of rest. The Wadleys pay the utilities and stock the house with beach supplies and then schedule clergy families to use the home for a week or two at a time – free of charge. (If God blesses people according to their generosity, the Wadleys will need dump trucks to haul their wealth around in heaven!)

So every year the Boysels descend upon Delaware. We go to the beach every day and acclimate our bodies to the cool water of the North Atlantic. We read novels and play lots of board games. We drink cheap wine (well, the over 21 group does) and we stay up late playing Monopoly. We keep no schedule and we try to avoid email. In the morning, Abby and I are up first, so we sip hot coffee on the porch swing and say Morning Prayer together. In the evening, we eat seafood or pizza or cotton candy while walking the strip at Ocean City.

At the end of our time in Delaware, we load up the car with the kids, the dog, and the swimsuits and head back to Ohio. We feel different than when we set out; more calm, more relaxed, more at peace; more whole. And when I get back to work, I remember that while it takes a Christian to be a priest, being a priest isn’t the same thing as being a Christian. Without this rest, I imagine I would forget that. So I guess rest is more than a command, it’s a gift.    

Rev. Daniel Jepsen, Non-Denominational Evangelical

What do I do for leisure and recreation? Well, as in any other area, sometimes I get this right and sometimes I get it…not so right. When I get it right I find leisure and recreation in two areas. One is hiking. The other is reading. I add the qualifications since I haven’t hiked for a while (it takes a good deal of time, and the weather has been all wet lately), and the type of reading I find re-creating takes some work and energy and I haven’t been doing much of that lately either (I seem to be intellectually drained lately). So I often settle for less than ideal forms of recreation, like watching tv with my wife or a movie with my son, surfing the internet, or reading a magazine. These things are not bad, but are not ideal for me. To be honest, leisure is an area I have struggled in lately.

How do the concepts of “enjoyment,” “pleasure,” “leisure,” and “fun” fit in my theological thinking? I am very positive toward these things. The church has too often listened to the platonic voices denying fleshly pleasure and exalting “spiritual” experience. The pleasures of this life are a great gift of God, and operate on two levels: First, they bring enjoyment in and of themselves, and are thus the means of evoking gratitude towards God. Second, they are also pointers to the kind of bliss we will experience in the new creation. When we take delight in a good meal, we honor the cook. When we take delight in sex, beauty, food, sleep, etc, we honor God. But we should also look beyond these things; their very goodness should make us long for the ultimate goodness, when we will be with God, enjoying, with others, “eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11, NIV).

Related to this, one of my biggest concerns about our culture is that we are increasingly chasing pleasure without gratitude, and in such a way as to draw us away from God, rather than more anxious to be with the author of such pleasures.

How does my church tradition teach me to think about and approach this aspect of life? I am in the very broad evangelical tradition, with all its faults and quirks regularly decried on these pages. One of the advantages of this heritage, however, is its eclecticism. I often start my morning devotions with Fenelon, the great Catholic mystic, but I could just as well read Luther, Calvin or Tozer. My “church tradition” encourages me to seek out those writers and thinkers of whatever age or denomination who seem to have the most biblical approach to the issue at hand. I am able to embrace the Roman Catholic aesthetic of music and art, while distancing myself from the ascetic streak running through much Catholic thought. I know some imonk readers don’t care for John Piper, but I feel he has done much good in restoring the right view of pleasure, and I am grateful for this (even as I disagree with his Calvinism).

In short, since my “tradition” does not have a settled view or tradition on this, I am gratefully free to learn from others.

Msgr. Paul Koetter, Roman Catholic

Recreational time for me has usually included the beauty of the outdoors.  In my twenties I vacationed numerous times in Colorado, camping and hiking in the southwestern part of the state.  Later I began snow skiing in the winter and taking canoe trips into the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada.  Recreation, for me, involves getting away from the normal routines and finding time to breath in the beauty of nature.

For me, nature is rejuvenating.  Away from the crowds, the Canadian experience is particularly refreshing because the land, air and water are so pristine and pure.  One can safely drink from the lakes and the only motorized sound that you might hear would be a low-flying pontoon plane.  I have held the personal belief that nature is always in harmony with God.  Nature is always doing what it should do!  When I spend time with nature, it seems to pull me back into a deeper harmony with God.  I feel more peaceful, my ability to trust seems to grow and I am able to see and appreciate my blessings with greater clarity.

A few years ago I was blessed to visit the Holy Land.  During the time, our guide took us to ancient Caesarea Phillipi, also called Banias, where Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am? And Who do you say that I am?”  At this site, we experienced the cold mountain streams running down from Mount Hermon.  Because Caesarea Phillipi is about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee and because of the refreshing spirit of the mountain streams, our guide suggested that maybe Jesus came to Caesarea Phillipi to get-away and for R&R (rest and recreation).  I had never thought of Jesus getting away to relax, but it made so much sense to me.  I could picture Jesus, sitting by the cool streams, relaxing and speaking with his followers.

I believe God wants us to enjoy the blessings that he gives to us and not just be rushing about all the time.   Our digital world seems to be moving faster and faster, and it is difficult to truly “take time”.   But, “take time” we must. True recreation should help us see the blessings of life with greater clarity and gratitude.

As the song from the sixties says, “Slow down, you move too fast.” Good words for body, mind and spirit!

Rev. William Cwirla, Lutheran

In the medieval “Golden Legend of St. John,” Cassiodorus reports that the apostle John was seen idly playing with a pet partridge that someone had given him.  A young man passing by made sport of it to his friends saying that the old man was playing with a bird like a little child.

John called the youth to come to him and demanded to know what was in his hand.  He held out a bow.  “What do you do with it,” John asked.  “We shoot birds and beasts,” the young man replied.  “How does it work,” John asked.  The young man showed him, stretching out the bow and holding it, then relaxing the bow again.  “Why have you unbent the bow,” John inquired.  The young man explained that if it is bent for too long a time, it would be weaker to shoot with it.

St. John replied, “So, my son, is the way of mankind and contemplation. If it is always bent it would be too weak, and therefore it is expedient to have recreation.  The eagle is the bird that flies the highest, and most clearly beholds the sun, and yet by necessity of nature, it does him well to descend low.  Even so when mankind withdraws a bit from contemplation, he returns with renewed strength and burns more fervently in heavenly things.”

The Lutheran doctrine of vocation views the Christian as a priest to God, baptized into the royal priesthood of Christ, and placed in priesthood and neighborhood to serve the neighbor in love.  For the Lutheran, “vocation” is not simply “what one does for a living.”  Rather, vocation is the sum total of all one’s aptitudes and abilities, guided by holy wisdom, lived out in trust (ie faith) that win or lose, succeeding or failing, one stands justified before God by grace through faith for Christ’s sake and is therefore free to worship, work, and play, offering up all things as living sacrifices to God and loving service of neighbor in gratitude for the one Atoning Sacrifice that makes it all possible.

I don’t believe in “avocations” as such, as though these were little satellites orbiting around the “more important things.”  I prefer to think in terms of priesthood, lifting up the creation to the Creator, consecrating all things – whether a good meal, a fine wine, a game of tennis, a nicely tended garden, a crafted piece of wood – all things are lifted up and consecrated by the Word of God and prayer, whether that be in work, in worship, or in play.  This is our priesthood.

St. John kept birds.  I’ve kept tropical fish and planted aquaria.  I enjoy the “stuff” of creation, what some call “nature,” whether hiking, bicycling with my wife, or scuba diving.  It all reflects the ordering divine Word and Wisdom who made all things and holds all things in existence.

My workshop gives me an opportunity to work with my hands, with tools and material.  It satisfies a creative urge to make something out of nearly nothing. God made the wood, but He gives it into our hands to make something of it and offer it back to Him.  Woodworking as priesthood.  I do the same with my preaching and teaching, but the results are far less tangible.  When people admire some little crafted box or mirror or bookcases, I can say, “Thank you” and enjoy their surprise that I built these things with my hands.  My pastoral work will see its fruition only on the last day, and not one day sooner.

I was given the gift of music by way of my mother who had a lovely soprano voice and a great talent on the piano.  Singing in our congregation’s choir affords me an opportunity to join my people in praise rather than lead them.  It is both relaxing and uplifting.  I used to play the piano and the clarinet.  I still dabble with the guitar now and then.

George Leonard, in his book Mastery, says that dabbling is the greatest obstacle to the mastery of anything.  At least now I understand.  I have mastered the art of dabbling, and have learned to enjoy all of it while mastering none of it.  Dabbling in music, I’ve grown to appreciate disciplined musicianship.  Dabbling in woodworking, I’ve learned to appreciate the craftsman and the artist.  Dabbling in home improvement, I’ve learned new respect for the tradesman.  I’ve dabbled in chess, classical guitar, square-foot gardening, drawing, plumbing, cabinet building, electrical, finish carpentry, and more that I’ve long forgotten.  A friend of mine says that I’m on a quest to find something I can’t do.  I’ve discovered that I can a lot of things, modestly well.  I’ve embraced mediocrity as the fair exchange for breadth.

All of it finds is way into preaching, teaching, and pastoral conversation.  Pastoral work deals with words – God’s Word, people’s words, words of confession and absolution, reconciliation and forgiveness.  God-words – “theology.”  There is lots of listening and speaking, reading and writing.  The world of “stuff” and craft and digging in soil, along with fine food and wine in the company of friends with much good music, is my retreat, my oasis, where the pastoral bow can be relaxed so that it can be taken up with renewed strength and fervor.

Comments

  1. So is it okay to play video games and read comic books or not? All these activities you guys subscribe to are way too uncontroversial. Like, is clubbing okay for recreation?

    • Seems like your question is a bit tongue in cheek, Huol, but I’m going to give a serious answer. I find that many of the “media” forms of entertainment and the “partying” forms of having fun actually tire me rather than refresh me. They are entertainment and fun, not leisure and “re-creation.” They have their place, but they are more like work to me than childlike, rejuvenating play.

      • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

        At a church planting conference I went to a few months ago, we were asked to talk about the ways we relax and whatnot. At our table were a seminarian, a priest who had not been out of that same seminary for very long, my parish rector, and a couple of missionaries in their 70’s. The two seminary guys talked about how the Nintendo Wii in the common area of their seminary house was a godsend as it helped keep ’em sane. The missionaries talked about how they like to go square dancing. I talked about my bi-weekly tabletop gaming sessions with the guys.

        I can say that a good video game or non-video game can really help me to unplug. But so can a good book or a nice long walk (we’ve got great trails in San Antonio through the greenbelt). And comics? Heck yeah! I love going to Barnes and Noble and spending an hour or so with the “graphic novels”

      • I think video games are not inherently harmful, but they do seem to be more addictive than many other forms of entertainment. I wasted much of my time and money in school and college on video games, and I do regret it somewhat. Online multiplayer games can be particularly dangerous in this regard. I still play games occasionally, but I think one has to be careful with them.

        Also, the question of video game violence is a difficult one. I think the line should be drawn sharper than with movies because you’re actually controlling the violence, but I’m not sure where to draw it.

        • I’ve grown to prefer board games, actually. Not so much games like Monopoly, but “serious” games like Dominion or Through the Desert or Nexus Ops that you’ll usually only find in a specialty store. They have much of what is appealing about video games, but with a much stronger social element of human interaction.

          • I used to love those old Avalon Hill board games. War and Peace, Squad Leader and others. I realize that now, its the equivalent of saying how attached I am to my rotary phone, or my landline.

            I still lament allowing my parents to sell all my old board games.

        • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

          Dude, you’re right about the online multiplayer games. I spent way too much of my 20’s in a couple of those. Very, very, VERY addictive.

      • Media forms of entertainment. Hmmm… So is internetmonk OK for recreation?

    • If you find clubbing to be recreation, then yes.

      Personally, I’d take lying on a bed of nails over being dragged to a club (or pub).

  2. It’s interesting that every answer here mentions something along the lines of ‘getting back to nature.’

    My idea of good recreational time is biking along some of the forest trails in my area. We have some pristine bushland around here that is suitably out of range of mobile phone reception.

    Over the last few months I’ve meditated on some of the more mystical works in the Christian tradition—St Francis, Julian of Norwich, Hildegard and so on. I am beginning to understand the immanence of God far more, and getting away from the noise of every day life makes this far clearer. An unexpected bonus is that I can see God more clearly in the chaos when I return to town. I can discern his hand more clearly in the lives of those to whom I minister.

    It’s almost like a few hours away resets me, and over time my default settings have been becoming better tuned.

  3. JoanieD says:

    Welcome to Father Koetter! I enjoyed your post. Caesarea Phillipi sounds beautiful. Often when I see photos or shows about the current situation of the Holy Land, I am happy to live with the mental image that I have of the area when Jesus walked there. (Especially Bethlehem with that big, ugly wall.)

    Rev. Cwirla writes, “dabbling is the greatest obstacle to the mastery of anything.” I like that. I am a dabbler in a few things, but I think not as successfully as you are.

    Rev. Jepson, I think it is great that you often begin your morning devotions with Fenelon. It’s been a long time since I read any of his things. I will have to put that on my list of things to read in the future. I have been doing so much “serious” reading lately, though, that just yesterday I picked up a novel for a change of pace.

  4. Leisure is so important, particularly for pastors/priests/chaplains, I think. It’s easy to allow ourselves to get overwhelmed by duty, because we love our duties. I’ve found myself slowing down the pace and simplifying life over the past few months, largely because of my new baby girl, with whom I greatly desire to share the best moments of life. I was an avid hiker in college, and spiritual reading accompanied that activity. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found that I hike less, but read more. Unfortunately, though, my reading often becomes work, as I jot down notes and use what I read for sermon prep, study, etc. Last month, though, I decided to read a novel for the first time in several years…I wound up reading almost everything Dan Brown has written over the course of three weeks (I can just hear the fundies gasping collectively! I read Dan Brown, and still believe in Jesus!).

    Dan Allender wrote “The Sabbath” for Phyllis Tickle’s “Ancient Practices” series, and has some interesting thoughts on Sabbath play. It’s a good read.

    • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

      Big fan of both Allender and Tickle. I need to pick up those books!

      • It’s a great series…particularly Sister Joan Chittister’s “The Liturgical Year”,Scot McKnight’s “Fasting”, and Robert Benson’s “In Constant Prayer”. I wasn’t so crazy about McLaren’s intro book to the series, “Finding our Way Again”, but I’ve always found his writing to be too tangential to suit my slightly ADHD mind. I liked Nora Gallagher’s “The Sacred Meal”, for her writing style and story-telling ability, but differed with her ideas on an open table…as in COMPLETELY open…to Christians, non-believers, etc. I haven’t read the books on tithing or pilgrimage as of yet, but am looking forward to them. Overall, I would say the series is a very, very good one for someone exploring the foundations of Christian practice.

        • Is there anything else by Allender you would particularly recommend?

          • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

            Leading with a Limp is particularly recommend-worthy. There’s a couple of interviews with Allender in the archives at stevebrownetc.com or poopedpastors.com about it.

    • JoanieD says:

      Lee, I read the Dan Brown books (except for the last one) and I still believe in Jesus, too!. My sister loved The Davinci Code but said his latest sequel to it was nowhere near as good. So I just keep putting it on the back burner, so to speak.

      • I read the DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons, and The Lost Symbol all back to back. I didn’t find the books to be faith-shattering, as many pastors purported them to be when DaVinci Code was hot, particularly since they are all clearly marked “fiction” on the binding. Duh.

        I did enjoy all the symbology and what-not, and actually spent a little bit of time exploring early Christian symbols after reading the books. Compelling stuff!

        • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

          The thing I found particularly obnoxious was the way that Brown seemed to also forget that DaVinci Code was fiction at that time. The interviews and whatnot were really annoying.

          • Right…When Brown realized that “No comment” was an inflammatory response to the question, “Is this book fact or fiction?”, he started using it more and more.

        • Donalbain says:

          The Da Vinci Code destroyed my faith in humanity! Any society that makes that drek a best seller is a sign of the End Times!

    • Lee, I’m gasping, but for a different reason.

      How on earth did you keep your brain from oozing out your ears? The prose style! (or lack thereof…) – aaaaah!!!!

      *runs away screaming*

      😉

      • Hahaha! I actually would normally read Robert Penn Warren, Erskine Caldwell and the like if I weren’t reading about church history and what-not, but I decided to read something trashy!

        Yes, Dan Brown is the master of the two page chapter! :o)

        • I read The Da Vinci Code. It started out OK but, like driving to Montpelier Vermont, the farther along I got the more I felt out in the boonies. I mean, the story just plain fizzled out the closer to the end.

          And what is that with the platonic love affair? Was that a steamy romance that never happened, or what? Who sets up two people of the opposite sex and then does nothing with them? Even Christian (TM) novels perform better than that!

          Two thumbs down. Not valid for recreation.

          • Montpelier is a fine little state capital. But I seriously thought I was going the wrong way the closer I got and the more cows I saw.

          • Ted, I love your analogy about getting more in the boonies as you went further. My experience exactly with that novel.

  5. David Cornwell says:

    Our church had a lecture series a couple of weeks ago. The subject this year was the “Christian practice of Sabbath keeping.” The lecturer was Dr. Norman Wirzba of Duke University. The series focused on his book “Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight (The Christian Practice of Everyday Life).”

    Regretfully I could not attend any of these because of a funeral, then my granddaughter’s wedding activities. However it turned out to be one of the best discussions our church has engaged in.

    I’m glad leisure is the subject of today’s discussion.

  6. I have given up all leisure until my children are adolescents. . .at least it sometimes feels that way. Even things that sound like leisure, such as taking my young children to the park, sometimes don’t feel very leisure-like. When I was younger (before kids), and felt contemplative, I confess that I would sometimes think about the place of leisure, hobbies and sports within the context of my relationship with God.

    I don’t have these thoughts anymore. Any free time, I am given the opportunity (alone or with my wife or a friend) to take a walk, sit and have a cup of coffee, or (gads!) see a movie, I take it. Taking those moments for myself, allows me to be a better parent, husband and friend. I can totally buy in to the idea of Jesus needing to take some R & R and that maybe the time he spent with just his disciples was part of it. I love the quotes by Msgr Koetter : “’take time’ we must. True recreation should help us see the blessings of life with greater clarity and gratitude.” I sometimes feel like this with my kids. They are blessings, but sometimes it seems as if they are sucking the life out of me. I just need a little time away to remind myself that they are blessings.

    I do find that there are certain things that are more life giving for me. Reading, writing and running are high on my list of life-giving things. I appreciate the “shout out” to us “dabblers.” I love the process of dabbling, the freedom to try something, without necessarily aiming for perfection. Sometimes the results are “bleh,” and sometimes I surprise myself, but the process engages my curiosity and and sense of discovery and makes me feel alive.

    • wcwirla says:

      Yay on the dabblers! I find embracing mediocrity to be very liberating to my inner perfectionist.

      • Two more Chesterton quotes:

        “It is not only possible to say a great deal in praise of play; it is really possible to say the highest things in praise of it. It might reasonably be maintained that the true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground. To be at last in such secure innocence that one can juggle with the universe and the stars, to be so good that one can treat everything as a joke — that may be, perhaps, the real end and final holiday of human souls.”

        “Oxford from Without”, All Things Considered, 1908

        “It will then be answered, not without a sneer, “And what would you prefer? Would you go back to the elegant early Victorian female, with ringlets and smelling-bottle, doing a little in water colors, dabbling a little in Italian, playing a little on the harp, writing in vulgar albums and painting on senseless screens? Do you prefer that?” To which I answer, “Emphatically, yes.”

        …To smatter the tongues of men and angels, to dabble in the dreadful sciences, to juggle with pillars and pyramids and toss up the planets like balls, this is that inner audacity and indifference which the human soul, like a conjurer catching oranges, must keep up forever. This is that insanely frivolous thing we call sanity. And the elegant female, drooping her ringlets over her water-colors, knew it and acted on it. She was juggling with frantic and flaming suns. She was maintaining the bold equilibrium of inferiorities which is the most mysterious of superiorities and perhaps the most unattainable. She was maintaining the prime truth of woman, the universal mother: that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

        “Folly and Female Education”, What’s Wrong with the World, 1912

        • Damaris says:

          What’s Wrong with the World is my favorite Chesterton book — brilliant.

        • Tom Howard had a lot to say about play when I took a few classes with him. His book Chance or the Dance? would probably have a lot about that, as does Evangelical Is Not Enough (got that one from HUG).

          For example, Howard says that weddings and even funerals are forms of play, and are some of the stuff that makes us human. Dogs don’t do those things.

          And no doubt Howard is a big fan of Chesterton.

          I’m currently reading Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water and she fits right in with anything I’ve read by Howard. I think I need to read some Chesterton too.

          • Damaris says:

            Ted, I bought Howard’s book on your recommendation and am really enjoying it. Thank you.

          • Glad you like it. I bought the other one on HUG’s recommendation and still working on it along with Madeleine L’Engle. Also re-reading Out of the Silent Planet from another discussion here. Depends on which chair I’m in.

  7. wcwirla says:

    Mike – Thanks for the workshop photo! It made me feel right at home.

  8. I want to second the notion that table top roleplaying games are a great form of re-creation. They allow a full breadth of imagination, and every DM and player adds their own creative polish to the shared world of imagination we play in. Instead of accepting something is so, we must ask why and how it is so, so we can decide how our character would react. Our characters face more stark and obvious choices than we do in our day to day, and the hunt for an imaginitive route around a seemingly impassable obstacle or thorny ethical problem definetely is play for the mind.

    I also find it also necessitates often deep philosophical conversations that by their nature everyone gets very invested in, but due to the offset world these conversation don’t cause bad feelings or hurt relationships. Especially in modern day RPGs, these then spill over into comparisons to our real life cosmology beliefs. As a DM, I often get a chance to clarify why something works differently in our campaign world than in our real life God-created/sustained world. D&D does a great job of showing how a godhood that leeches it’s power off of people creates such a different landscape than a God who loves and creates and gives.

    That said, just like there is a divide between great art that causes contemplation and He-man, the effect is definetely quality limited. A good DM, sincere players, and not having a pack of wild axe murderers for characters is required.

    • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

      Good take, Tokah! I like DMing, but it’s tiring. Maybe it’s just my gaming group, but managing a story and the players is like herding cats.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        That’s because there’s only one of you and many of them. And if the many are playing “Beat the DM” regardless of the ruleset, you can all too easily wind up with a Knights of the Dinner Table situation where the trid players overwhelm the DM.

      • I am a simulationist DM, I set up the existing moving forces in the world and then let the players have at it. They do whatever they do, the npcs do whatever they would do in response to said action/inaction, and the resul turns into something we call a story. Some of my friends who DM claim my plan is more work, but after the prep work is done I look MUCH more relaxed for the next two years than they do. 😉

    • wcwirla says:

      I’ve shared the table with some serious board gamers and can attest that this is wonderful fun at many levels. Though I don’t number myself among the gamers (we ISTPs like to rearrange the real world rather than fantasize about an imaginary world), I do “get it.”

  9. I love the picture of Jesus vacationing at Caesarea Phillipi! Reminds me of Rich Mullins’ song that says He “took off His shoes and scratched His feet”.

  10. ” I am able to embrace the Roman Catholic aesthetic of music and art, while distancing myself from the ascetic streak running through much Catholic thought.”

    Ooh, a challenge to this Papist! 😉

    I refer any ladies and gentlemen who may be interested to this essay by Chesterton, from which I excerpt the following:

    “I was reflecting in the course of the recent feast of Christmas (which, like other feasts, is preceded by a fast) that the combination is still a puzzle to many.

    …To many people, however, who are not offensively in advance of the times the combination of these ideas does seem to be a sort of contradiction or confusion. But in real fact it is not only not so confused, but even not so complicated. The great temptation of the Catholic in the modern world is the temptation to intellectual pride. … So when somebody says that a fast is the opposite to a feast, and yet both seem to be sacred to us, some of us will always be moved merely to say, “Yes,” and relapse into an objectionable grin. When the anxious ethical enquirer says, “Christmas is devoted to merry-making, to eating meat and drinking wine, and yet you encourage this pagan and materialistic enjoyment,” you or I will be tempted to say, “Quite right, my boy,” and leave it at that. When he then says, looking even more worried, “Yet you admire men for fasting in caves and deserts and denying themselves ordinary pleasures; you are clearly committed, like the Buddhists, to the opposite or ascetic principle,” we shall be similarly inspired to say, “Quite correct, old bean,” or “Got it first time, old top,” and merely propose an adjournment for convivial refreshment.”

    Nevertheless, it is a temptation to be resisted. Not only is it obviously our duty to explain to the other people that what seems to them contradictory is really complementary, but we are not altogether justified in any such tone of superiority. We are not right in making our geniality an expression of our despair. We are not entitled to despair of explaining the truth; nor is it really so horribly difficult to explain. The real difficulty is not so much that the critic is crude as that we ourselves are not always clear, even in our own minds, far less in our public expositions. It is not so much that they are not subtle enough to understand it, as that they and we and everybody else are not simple enough to understand it. Those two things are obviously part of one thing, if we are straightforward enough to look at the thing; and to see it simply as it is.”

    • Great quote, Martha. I love Chesterton.

      I wasn’t trying to lay down a challenge. Re-reading my sentence when it was published made me wish I had qualified the last phrase. Instead of saying “in much Catholic thought” I should have said “some Catholic thought” or, more exactly, “some early Catholic thought”.

      • As the man said, it’s not contradictory, it’s complementary 🙂

        No problems, Daniel.

      • Donalbain says:

        Have you ever read anything by Martha? It doesnt matter if you are trying to lay down a challenge or not. She will accept that challenge anyway! 🙂

        She is the Barney Stinson of iMonk!

  11. JoanieD says:

    I am glad Rev. Boysel got in on this. I enjoyed his post. I liked , “Vacations are not a luxury, they are a spiritual necessity.”

    And I see Rev. William Cwirla had a comment now saying “I find embracing mediocrity to be very liberating to my inner perfectionist.” I like that very much!

    Martha…you often mention Chesterton. I was working my way through his book, Orthodoxy and I kind of got tired of it after a while. I decided this: Chesteron has great quotations; George MacDonald has great sermons; C.S. Lewis has great books.

    • That’s okay, Joanie. You either love or hate Chesteton, and I have no animus towards those poor, pathetic, miserable, deprived souls in their sad little drab worlds who can’t appreciate him 😉

      Nah, it’s okay. I love the man, particularly his novels, and the hard part when starting to quote him is reining myself in and not dumping half the book on someone, but for those who find him too bitty or distracted or not coherent enough, that’s fine. (Though I will go to my grave still pushing “The Man Who Was Thursday” on anyone misfortunate enough to get into my clutches with the fervour of an Omnian missionary with an armful of explanatory pamphlets, complete with deranged glint in eye).

      George MacDonald is also great, but I definitely feel (when I read his novels) rather like I feel when reading Gene Wolfe: there is so much more going on than I get, and this man is considerably smarter than me. Again, “Lilith” is a wonderful novel 🙂

      • JoanieD says:

        Martha, I haven’t read any of Chesterton’s novels. I think I will like them though. I know public television had his Father Brown (I THINK that is the name) mysteries on some years ago and they were good.

        I like MacDonald’s sermons (a lot of them, anyway) but I wasn’t thrilled with his novel, Phantastes. Maybe I would like Lilith better.

        So I don’t hate Chesterton. I am going to read some of his essays in the book that I have which has a number of his works in the one book.

  12. textjunkie says:

    I know that clergy in general have a real problem taking vacations, and kind of have to leave town for extended periods if they want to get away from their jobs and unwind. (Which might account for the repeated theme of being out in nature…) But other folks can sometimes take short breaks–3 day weekends and the like–without having to take a long vacation all at once (and then coming back to a complete disaster at the office, which wipes out any sense of well-being they might have built up from their time away).

    I kind of like vacations but kind of don’t, for that reason. Short breaks scattered throughout the year work better for me. And a non-stop diet of science fiction. 🙂

  13. I don’t know if it’s to late to comment, but here’s a question I think needs to be addressed:

    How do we flesh out leisure in a time of the deification of efficiency? It seems to me that people are told to work, work, and work some more. How do we gain time to have this time of rest in a world (or at least an America) where we are called to work 40 hours a week, attend every conference at our local congregation (I attend a 26,000 member Southern Baptist church, so there are 10 billion of those), get everything done that has to be done around the house, etc., etc.? For the normal person (or at least the people I have come into contact with), this is the main way of life. There is no recreation and leisure. How do we combat this?

    • I’d start by skipping “every conference at our local congregation.” Seriously.

      • I know a Lutheran pastor who will only go to a conference or denominational meeting if he can sail his boat there. So if it is not on a coastal town or city on the California coast he does not go. He manages to get in a couple conferences every two or three years.

      • That’s what I was feeling. So you’re saying 40 hours a week of well-done work plus everything that’s done around the house would suffice (that Doctrine of Vocation which was so well discussed here a few weeks ago)? Interesting. That’s exactly what I was thinking.